This “Dry January” thing has been interesting this year as the “sober-curious” trend picks up a little bit of momentum on social media. There are more articles this year than in prior years, probably enough that if you weren’t familiar with Dry January then you’ve at least heard the phrase in passing now. There are more “thought pieces” from people who’ve quit drinking for a month, and a few from people who’ve determined to just quit for good. There are articles on how to resist temptation during this “dry run” on sobriety, though I’d say if one is experiencing constant temptation in trying to stop for only a month, they may want to think a bit deeper on their relationship to alcohol. That’s not my place though. It’s just an opinion from a guy with over ten Dry Januarys consecutively, and dry other months too. It’s from someone who is more than sober-curious.
This article resonated in some ways though:
It resonated because people do demand explanations, or they just come up with their own explanations that may end up being less flattering than the truth. It’s real. If you’re one of the people described in the article who falls into the Alcohol Use Disorder or Substance Use Disorder spectrum (AUD/SUD), the stories other people can concoct are often worse than what you perceive as your darkest moments. You can write that up as their innocent lack of knowledge but mostly they’re just being fucking nosy and ignorant. No, I’m not bitter. I’m just tired of explaining myself, and granted I shouldn’t bother because some people will make up their own stories no matter what I tell them.
I do identify and sympathize with the author of this article though, right from the opening:
My last drink occurred just like my first. In a crowded room, surrounded by people I wanted to be like and be liked by.
Last April, I went to a party in the West Village. Surrounded by beautiful, shiny people, I felt dull and alone. Nursing a drink like everyone else, I just wanted to go home. That night I realized something I had ignored for a long time: Social drinking did not make me social. It made me want to crawl in a hole.
My life and my lifestyle, driven and fueled by alcohol-fueled socializing, had worn me right the fuck out. That’s the worst of it. There was nothing catastrophic. It was a bleak, gray tedium where nothing changed and it seemed like nothing would ever change. I was worn out. All the really weird stuff had happened years before. It was just a case of being light years from the person I wanted to be and I felt stuck, and depressed and hopeless and in the absence of passion for my own life and future life, everything became impossible to maintain and it started to fall apart, slowly and painfully.
The rest of the article is their story, and it’s a common story that I’ve heard a thousand times or more. It’s their journey to being comfortable not being what they were before. That oversimplifies things. These are heroic struggles that people go through and not just with alcohol and drugs. Change is hard. Finding joy or hell, just finding daily contentment, can be a battle. You have to work to get it and you have to work to sustain it. The rewards are there for sure but it can be intimidating. It would be easier to surrender to the hardship and try to find some way to numb it all.
Except those old ways stopped working a long time ago. That’s where the struggle began.
The piece really resonated to me because I’ve long wondered what’s beyond the 12 Steps doctrines and explanations. It’s explained in 12 Steps literature even that what we do when we move towards sober living flies in the face of everything. Of our own nature. Of society. Of our very culture. It’s not normal, so how then does not drinking, for an alcoholic or someone who just doesn’t like it, become normalized? Will we always have to explain ourselves? Will there always be pressures from other people to just go with the flow? No pun intended. Will we always be the odd men out? Freaks.
Does it matter?
No, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The burden to be okay with it really rests on the recovering alcoholic and the person who just wants to quit. We can’t continue to be different and expect people to respect us and like us as we are. We can’t expect that outside validation, or we can expect it, but not depend on it. The amount to which it bothers us to be outsiders is on us, not them.
It’s not on them. Yet it would be nice not to have to explain, wouldn’t it?
And also consider that the reason drinking people (most people) would like you to drink also is so that they feel comfortable with whatever happens when they start drinking. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Like, just do you, buddy. Don’t worry about me. I’m good.
And I’ve so many other silly insecurities that always leave me feeling like the odd man out anyway. Sad but true. They’ve lessened as I’ve worked on myself in sobriety. That’s the thing with not drinking. If you don’t have the chemical buffer between you and your great big fucking feelings, you’re going to have to deal with those feelings. The plus is that while you may never be able to exorcise your personal demons, you can at least, like I have, come to a kind of platonic agreement with the more tenacious ones that won’t go away. I’m good now.
But yes, it would be nice not to have to explain what amounts to a lifestyle and dietary choice, or that’s the type of choice is should be. So some random notes on one of the more thoughtful articles. I may add some follow-ups on some of the more interesting articles I’ve seen on the way sobriety and things like non-alcoholic cocktails are marketed. Those are generally very obviously written by drinkers, by the way. This is a strange culture to navigate by the way. You can see it from here on the outside. There is an elephant in the room that nobody is willing to discuss. It’s something to do with a cultural obsession with intoxication. You can almost see it as a singular entity. We, as a society and culture, defend our alcoholic consumption the same way a heavy drinker might when questioned by friends or family or a doctor.
It’s just shits and giggles. I can quit any time I want.
Okay, cool story, bro.